“All are indeed welcome in this place…”

Over at his blog, Deacon Bill Ditewig shares a timely and thought-provoking dream:

The dream?  The catholic — truly universal — people of God!  Every person who is cut off from everything and everyone else, is WELCOMED by the catholic people of God.  In a very real sense, the catholic people of God is the home for the homeless, the family for those who have been disowned and rejected by others, are the ones for whom this church is designed.  In the ancient catholic people of God, they were often the ones cut off and persecuted by society and those in charge, often to their deaths.  But the ancient catholic people of God rejoiced that they were a people called by God (an “ekklesia theou”), a people without church buildings or temples.  What united them and gave them hope and joy was their common faith that God had called them to be a people for each other, PRECISELY because they were cut off from everyone else.

The dream?  At Midnight Mass this year, that the doors will open and everyone — absolutely everyone — will walk in to applause, laughter and joy-filled welcome.  Those dirty, smelly children of God who are living under the overpass, those depressed and lonely gay teenagers who are walking on the brink of despair, those people who look and sound different from others, and even those who find themselves here without legal status — all of them will pour through those doors and into the welcoming arms of this catholic people of God and find a true home and the love that has so often been denied them by society.  “If society has rejected you, we welcome you” is the mission statement of the catholic people of God.  And to the bishop who once remarked that the song “All are Welcome” was incorrect, and that all people are NOT welcome at Catholic Mass, I say,  “Sorry, bishop, but you are wrong.  In the Catholic Church, in the authentic catholic people of God, all are indeed welcome in this place.”

I know.  Right now we have many Catholics who don’t even like to reach out and take someone else’s hand at the greeting of peace before communion.  Those folks are really not going to like my dream, since not only do I hope that they will shake someone else’s hand, but actually, beginning at Midnight Mass this Christmas, I’m hoping that they will open their arms and embrace tightly that dirty, smelly homeless man who’s been living in a cardboard box down the street from the church.  In fact, it is precisely to those who have been excluded by everyone else that Christ is coming into the world.

Read more. It’s worth it.

Photo courtesy haak78 / Shutterstock.com

Comments

  1. Elizabeth Scalia says:

    It’s a lovely piece, and I agree with Bill that “All are Welcome.” Many people don’t realize it because they’ve made idols of their ideas and so they think either you have to be just like them to be welcome, or that a welcome must include a complete capitulation of the host to the desires of the guest. Neither of those attitudes comport well with “welcome.” They’re too wrapped up in trying to get the church to conform to their own ways. The church truly does welcome all.

    I do think Bill has unintentionally smeared those who dislike the sign of peace, though. Some of us just don’t like it because we’re shy. We participate in the sign of peace with reluctance but that doesn’t mean we don’t love.

  2. Imagine if next weekend the doors of our churches were propped open and a banner proclaimed on the street for all to see ” Everyone “and we do mean EVERYONE’ is Welcome. Merry Christmas! ”

    Deacon Bill ‘s dream is appealing not only in how it would rightfully impact those who were cut off from the Church, or society, or family or friends. But imagine how his dream – how you and I entering that Church on Christmas Eve under that sign with that invitation – would impact us– I am talking from Mr. Liberal Catholic to Mrs. Traditional Catholic to everyone in between ( most of us). Would it change how we celebrated the birth of our savior and its meaning?

    May all be welcome- in our hearts and in our Churches..

    thanks Decns Bill and Greg.

  3. George Mason says:

    I agree with E. Scalia.
    Apparently, it seems the “holier than thou” dreaming deacon has no tolerance for those who are not touchy feely. He claims to want to embrace all people, and yet he wants to force people to do things that make them feel uncomfortable (like shake hands or hug a homeless person), even though Christ does not demand those things. After all, we don’t go to church for sentimentality or hugs, but because we firmly believe in what Christ taught and continues to teach in His Church (something starkly missing from the deacon’s dream) despite our own personal sinfulness or personal quirks. And although we all need conversion, perhaps the deacon should realize that not shaking hands is not a sin, but certain other activities -which may be the reason some “feel” unwelcomed, are.
    PS
    The statement, “But the ancient catholic people of God rejoiced that they were a people called by God (an “ekklesia theou”), a people without church buildings or temples.” is misguided rhetorical nonsense. They “rejoiced” they had no buildings ? Is that why as soon as the persecution ended they found buildings where they could worship publicly? The only reason they had no buildings in the Roman Empire before 313 was because they had to worship secretly in catacombs or individual homes lest they all be arrested.

  4. George Mason says:

    Everyone is welcome to be present at Mass. But, not everyone is welcome to receive Christ in the Blessed Sacrament until they have repented.
    This is the problem. How do you invite without pretending that doctrine and morals are unimportant?

  5. Fiergenholt says:

    You know, I often disagree with “The Anchoress/ Elizabeth Scalia” on her blog but here, I sit back and say “Hmmm. . . I wonder if she is right!” There are shy folks out there who — for whatever reason — become very uncomfortable around bubbly and enthusiastic type of folks. Part of that is probably cultural — German Catholics versus Italian Catholics or English Catholics versus Tex-Mex Catholics. Part of that is a value that is embedded by our own parents before were ten. Part of it — horror of horrors — may have been the aftermath of the priest-pedophile scandal.

    I’d like to hug them all and say “It’s time to warm up to other folks.” But that may not happen in this world.

    Bottom line: In the final days of the Second Coming, if I am still alive, I want to rush up to the Lord Jesus, give him a big hug, and say. . . “What took you so long!”

  6. I think that it may be typical of Introverts. They do not like people to invade their space. I am an Introvert but I had to work on it so that I would not come off as unfriendly or, God forbid, unsociable and uncooperative. Yet, over the years, I find I have gotten more and more comfortable with the kiss of peace, especially when a person gives a smile along with the handshake. It does make a person feel welcome.

  7. I am also an introvert – but a little maturity goes a long way – the sign of peace is a very, very brief touch – I think even the most acutely shy adult can handle it – and may even benefit from it?

  8. I’m having trouble seeing where the pretense is. Isn’t the invitation to “come-on-in”, in and of itself, an overt application (and consequential show of importance) of an aspect of the doctrine and morals?

  9. Christ might not demand hugs and handshakes specifically, but they sure are appropriate and convenient ways to put into action the love and charity toward others He does demand.

    I believe that is exactly what Christ taught and the reason for living a Christian lifestyle and should be practiced everywhere and specifically in a church.

  10. That is well put Annie.

  11. pagansister says:

    I thought that was what churches were supposed to do—welcome everyone who wishes to enter. I know I light candles when I enter a church– 2 in memory of my parents and 2 in memory of my in-laws. (the child in the picture above might be doing a simular thing). It disappoints me when a church has changed it’s candles to electric ones—so not the same thing.

  12. Deacon Bill says:

    Dear George,

    “Holier-than-thou dreaming deacon”? Wow? OK, if that’s they way you took it.

    Yes, several patristic writers were enthusiastic that the church of Christ was not a religion like other (“pagan”) religions that had temples; we were a church without such things. And the first building owned following he Edict of Milan by Constantine was a GIFT from the Emperor as a sign of his good faith in restoring civil rights to Christians.

    Methinks perhaps you missed the real points of my dream.

    God bless,
    Deacon Bill

  13. Deacon Bill says:

    PS And, oh, George, where did you get that I “have no tolerance” for those who don’t like the greeting of peace? Far from it, I completely understand that many people are made uncomfortable by that gesture. All I said was that many people don’t like it — and if they struggle with that, then it may be hard from them to open up in an even more substantial way. I was, in my own poor way, attempting to speak figuratively.

    God bless,
    Deacon Bill

  14. Deacon Steve says:

    The sign of peace can be a simple exchange of words, a look and a smile, a nod of the head, shaking of the hands or an embrace. What is important is that we exchange this peace and be respectful of the other people that we are worshiping with at mass. So don’t like to shake hands becuase they are shy, afraid of getting sick, self conscious about how cold their hands are etc. We need to reach out to others to exchange a sign of Christ’s peace, making sure that both parties are comfortable with the manner of exchange. I didn’t see Deacon Bill’s words as a slam, but more as a vision of what would be ideal, that all would be able to put aside their fears, resevervations or what ever prevents them from reaching out in a heartfelt manner to exchange the peace of Christ.

  15. The Sign of Peace isn’t the focus of Deacon Bill’s dream. The dream certainly isn’t that we all shake hands. The dream is that we become a truly welcoming church — welcoming to all the people who feel excluded, all the people whom some would exclude. And don’t quibble about worthy reception of Communion, because Deacon Bill isn’t talking about that either. He is talking about people coming to join our family. We can only talk to them about right and wrong when they are with us, and they won’t be with us unless they know they are welcome. And they won’t know they’re welcome unless the love we show them imitates — is an image and likeness of — the all-embracing, never-ending, self-emptying love of God.

    And no, I’m not holier than thou. I don’t think I’m very good at letting people see God’s love for them in my actions. I need to do a lot better.

  16. Perhaps off topic…. but the picture used for this piece appears to be from an Orthodox Church, or possibly an Eastern/Greek/Byzantine Catholic Church. I’ve never seen these candle-stands used in the Latin Church. We use them in the East at the holy icons stands and the memorial table.

  17. Deacon Norb says:

    Mary:
    I do not think your posting is off-topic at all. I know two Western/Latin-Rite Deacons who are also Eastern/Armenian-Rite ones as well. A century or so ago, it was not uncommon for Latin-Rite priests to become bi-ritual so as to provide isolated Eastern-Rite churches with the week-end Sacred Mysteries. The movement of these two deacon friends of mine was really the other way. Both were baptized Armenian Catholics and serve in an Armenian Mission station but were ordained in a Latin-Rite ceremony (with the approval and cooperation of their Armenian Eparch).

    When my Latin-Rite bishop was installed some eight years or so ago, I found myself vesting right next to the married-priest-pastor of one of the two Ruthenian congregations in our area of the Midwest. Our conversation was moderately short and I never saw him again but I learned a lot in that short period of time.

    One suggestion on my part. A different Ruthenian congregation in our diocese has a Speakers’ Bureau. My Latin-Rite parish did invite them to present a program at one of our Lenten series many years ago. Great experience. Why not organize such a Speakers’ Bureau at your congregation.

  18. It’s funny how many people love that simple gesture of lighting candles, even those who aren’t Catholic. Our parish is the only one of the three Catholic churches in our town which still has the votive candles. We had to make some special efforts to satisfy the insurance company and the fire marshall, such as a ventilation hood and stone tiles on the floor directly underneath. But I think it has been worth it, most of the candles are always lit.

  19. Excellent thoughts by Deacon Bill, would that his dream would come true!

  20. ron chandonia says:

    At our parish vigil mass last night, Archbishop Wilton Gregory preached about homelessness. Focusing on the first reading (from 2 Samuel), he speculated on why God might have preferred to make his dwelling in the humility of a tent rather than the grandeur of a great temple. Then he urged us to find the Lord at Christmastime among those we often disdain, the persistent beggars and other street people who live under the bridges and viaducts of Atlanta. Sitting in the first pew in front of the archbishop was Shawn, a young homeless mentally ill man who is a regular guest at our parish feed-the-hungry program. At times, he is a bit disruptive during services, but last evening, he sat quietly as the archbishop spoke.

    To some extent, I think that scene reflects Deacon Bill’s vision. But only to some extent, because the problem with Shawn is one Christians face in dealing with others we too often reject. Even when we welcome the outcasts, we are frequently at a loss as to how to help them overcome the obstacles–often, behavioral obstacles–that keep them on society’s margins. A handout–or a handshake–are clearly better than nothing, but they are simply not enough. Not for the homeless mentally ill and perhaps not for other outcasts whose sinful ways have alienated them from the Christian community.

  21. Jane Jenkins says:

    Sorry, but I find Dcn. Bill’s dream as misleading. Why?
    He seems to compare the ancient Church as more welcoming than the Church today, but this is based on fiction and a failure to explain what “welcome” means. He leaves us with a nice feeling, but ultimately it is no more than that.
    Is welcome the formal liturgical gesture of shaking hands? Then the deacon must consider the Churches of the Eastern Rite as unwelcoming. That is a sad unecumencial viewpoint.
    Is welcome a simple “Hi, come in and pray?” If so, that’s not what the historians tell us the ancient Church did. Membership in the Catholic Church was a matter of life and death back then. People were vetted before they could join worship. That’s part of the reason for sponsors at baptism – that is “witnesses” who would testify that the person was not a government spy and was sincere about becoming Catholic. The catechumenate could last for years, and liturgical scholars tell us that those who got as far as the catechumenate [and also penitents] were dismissed before the Liturgy of the Eucharist, since the sacred mysteries were only for those who were practicing the Faith and in good standing. Even into the Middle Ages travelers carried a something to show their credentials as a Christian in good standing (just as priests today carry credentials) so that they might be admitted to the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
    Now, I am not saying I am against inviting all to come and pray today in church in our changed conditions and situation. I’ve never been to a Catholic Church that told people to leave (except once when a homeless man was causing a disturbance by going aroundasking for money during Mass). Even official practice today welcomes EVERYONE to the Mass. Just read the USCCB statement on most missalettes.
    So what is the deacon’s real point? Does he have a particular church in mind?
    Does he want to make the sign of peace the highpoint of the Mass?
    Does welcome mean not preaching difficult things to hear?
    Is liturgy about us or about God? What we take from the liturgy is what should affect our relationships – but outside the time of worship.
    Finally, the deacon should know that some places that self-congratulate themselves as open to all (even though every Catholic Church is open to all), do not preach the first words recorded to have come out our Jesus Christ’s mouth: “Repent and believe, the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Such places actually affirm lifestyles directly contrary to the Gospel.

  22. George Mason says:

    Thanks for your response.
    That’s the way I took it because some of us do not feel comfortable to express care and friendship by touching. And yet, you prejudge us as unwelcoming. “Right now we have many Catholics who don’t even like to reach out and take someone else’s hand at the greeting of peace before communion. Those folks are really not going to like my dream,”
    As someone who attends a downtown parish in DC, I have invited homeless to Mass. Some of the homeless that have been welcomed into my parish (not all of course, but some) go around an start asking for money during Mass. When the usher asks them to stay in a pew, they start to make a scene. Others have urinated in the pews. Others have washed themselves in the holy water font. It’s the reality which no amount of sentimentality can change. For many it’s not their full fault. They are addicts or have mental problems.
    It is ridiculous to think one has to hug the homeless – many who themselves don’t want to be touched (so I guess you have a problem with them too) -to become a good Christian in your dream world.

    I am all for inviting people to become Christian. That is evangelization. It is your private version of evangelization that I disagree must become a rule for all.

    Finally, since you make the claim, please, provide the names of a couple of Fathers of the Church and their writings which you claim support your view on church buildings.

  23. Elizabeth Scalia says:

    Today at mass I thought of this thread and realized another reason I don’t much like the sign of piece: people who think a handshake is not complete unless they give your hand a good SQUEEZE, too. For those of us with arthritic hands, it’s hard not to yelp out in pain, sometimes. Today I had a fella who really wanted me to know how much he wished me peace. I went ahead and offered up the pain! :-)

  24. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    Alas, Elizabeth, as people have learned since the beginning of time: sometimes sharing peace with others is indeed painful… ;-) ….

  25. naturgesetz says:

    Welcome means that our reaction to the suggestion that people join us isn’t to come up with as many objections and obstacles as we can.

    It means that our attitude toward sinners is, “Glad you’re here,” not, “Repent, you miserable sinner.”

    Of course, the Church needs to present our moral teaching, but in a way that actually leads people to repentance. Jesus managed to bring sinners to repentance. The people he had trouble with were the self-righteous hypocrites whose focus other peoples’ sinfulness. (See the parable of the pharisee and the publican.)

  26. David_J_White says:

    It occurs to me that one group of people towards whom we should all make an effort to be welcoming this year is the “yearlings”, as my father calls them, those who tend to come to Mass only on Christmas and Easter — particularly this year, since many of them will inadvertently give themselves away at Mass by automatically responding “And also with you”, unaware of the recent introduction of the revised translation. It is very easy for some of us — well, OK, me — to give in to the temptation to let ourselves feel smug and superior to the yearlings, but it’s worth fighting that temptation and making an extra effort to be welcoming, esp. if we want to encourage them to start coming by more often.
    (Full disclosure: I will be attending a traditional Latin Mass on Christmas, as I do most Sundays, so the yearlings won’t be as obvious, but still, I think my point remains.)

  27. pagansister says:

    Am glad Melody, that our church was able to continue the “real candles”. Turning on a light just isn’t the same thing at all. :o)

  28. pagansister says:

    That should be Your church —-

  29. This issue of being welcoming like the protestant megachurches with assigned greeters and big screens and musci and love flowing versus the Catholic Church Mass is one that really irks me. The Catholic Mass has never been the place that I see the outreach happening.

    How about candidates who are going through the RCIA program. When they are at mass, after the readings, they are sent out of the church prior to the eucharist until they are accepted into the Catholic Church. Week after week, the mass is stopped, these people come forward, are blessed by the priest, and sent out of the church with the RCIA leaders to study and prepare for Easter. Maybe this is not done in all parishes, but I understand it is what is supposed to happen and goes back to the early days of the church where those not yet if full communion with the Church are not allowed to stay for Eucharist.

    How about the fact that we are not supposed to receive the Eucharist if we are not in the state of grace which includes those who have not attended mass the week before and were not sick or otherwise unable or have other grave sin.

    What separates our Catholic Mass and is something that many do not seem to accept is that Mass with the Eucharist, the Blood, Body, Soul, and Divinity of Christ is present at the Mass unlike any other place.

    So for these and other reasons, we certainly invite everyone in, but they cannot partake of what they find inside. You cannot exclude it or ignore it because it is at the heart of what Catholic believe. It would be like opening your home to everyone at Thanksgiving, but excluding some from the meal. You would be accused of not being welcoming.

    Catholics will not accept teaching that gay lifestyle acts are normal or accept gay couples because it is part of our solid teaching. We welcome the gay into the mass, but because of the grave sin, if you exclude them in any way and do not proclaim what they do as normal and equal to marriage between one man and one woman, you are not welcoming.

    Catholic teaching has issues with those who support abortion. There is no getting around that issue. We can welcome them in many ways, but we should not see them in that grave state of sin going up to receive the Eucharist which is certainly also a grave sin.

    The protestant megachurch does not have the real thing, the Eucharist, at their services. It is like one team having real ball players and the next stadium over, they have card board figures standing out of the field. To get crowds, they fill it with great music, they have flashing scoreboards, they have fireworks, and do everything they can to distract you from one simple fact, they do not have the Real Thing. When we started to add all the peripheral things and jazz up the music and guitars and change the churches by moving the tabernacle out of the center focus of view at every entry point, it is not surprising that many Catholics lost their belief if the Eucharist being the actual Body and Blood of our Lord.

    One reason many do not feel comfortable with the entire peace thing is that it seems to come at a time when we are focused on what we are about to receive in the Eucharist. It would be like stopping a movie right when the entire story is about to reveal itself to stand up and shake hands with everyone around us. We have heard the Word of God, and are about to eat His Body and drink His Blood as he commanded and have reached the pinnacle of the sacrifice of the mass and then we are doing what seems like we should have done if at all during the first five minutes. We have coffee and donuts after our mass and many other events to welcome those interested in the Catholic Church all the time. Like Mother Theresa said when asked how she could leave the sick unattended to take her sisters off to pray and to mass. “We are of little use unless we are filled with Christ and eating His Body and drinking His Blood are what allows us to do all the things we do. Only as we are filled with Christ and empty of ourself are we filled with love to go out to meet the world.”

  30. naturgesetz says:

    Sigh.

    Megachurches are not what is being suggested.

    The catechumens are welcome, as Deacon Bill uses the term.

    Worthiness to receive Communion is also not the issue. Jesus did not invite us to judge others’ worthiness. Each person has the sole responsibility for making that judgment for himself, unless his bishop or pastor has called him in and told him not to receive or he has been publicly excommunicated.

    You are in disagreement with the Church about the Sign of Peace. She has placed the Sign of Peace where she has as a way of reminding the faithful of one of the serious requirements for worthy reception of Communion. And it seems to me that Deacon Bill is not so much concerned with the physical gesture of the Sign of Peace as with the attitude of heart which it is supposed to signify.

    As I said to Jane Jenkins: “Welcome means that our reaction to the suggestion that people join us isn’t to come up with as many objections and obstacles as we can.
    It means that our attitude toward sinners is, “Glad you’re here,” not, “Repent, you miserable sinner.”
    Of course, the Church needs to present our moral teaching, but in a way that actually leads people to repentance. Jesus managed to bring sinners to repentance. The people he had trouble with were the self-righteous hypocrites whose focus [was on] other peoples’ sinfulness. (See the parable of the pharisee and the publican.)”

  31. naturgesetz, sorry for your sigh problem but…

    First of all, Deacon Bill states that the Bishop was wrong when he said “the bishop who once remarked that the song “All are Welcome” was incorrect, and that all people are NOT welcome at Catholic Mass, I say, “Sorry, bishop, but you are wrong. In the Catholic Church, in the authentic catholic people of God, all are indeed welcome in this place.”

    Do you believe the Bishop was wrong on this point? I do not think he was wrong and tried to point out a few reasons why around the mass by the very nature of the mass itself. I see this argument on why we should not completely change everything in the mass and make it look a lot more like the welcoming protestant megachurch. Not welcoming everyone is seen as stating what the Catholic Church teaches and does in regard to those in RCIA or the teaching on receivig the Eucharist does not mean that we do not welcome those not yet in communion with the Cahtolic Church, only that they do need to learn what the Catholic Church actually teaches.

    Some have tried to force the welcoming issue such as those seeking the Church to change its teaching on gays or women priests and have used the mass as the forum to make their statements. When not accepted or when communion is refused to these public statements of dissent, they scream not welcome. The bishop in fact was correct about the Catholic Mass, not the Catholic faith. What Deacon Bill is describing in his dream is not a Catholic Mass, but a service found at the protestant church where the Eucharist is no where to be found.

    You say of course the church needs to present our moral teaching…but in a way that leads them to repentence. How would you do that for gays that do not accept that what they do is gravely disordered and their only choice in life as Catholics is to lead a celebate life? Or how would you present those who support abortion and have been told about it from their priest and or bishop and present themselves to receive the Eucharist? Again, Jesus presented teaching on the Eucharist and let those walk away that said it was too hard. Does this make him a one found in the pharisee and the publican gospel? Scott Hahn talked about the hard line that one has when you have solid teaching of the Church in contrast to the world around it and that those who hold for what the Church teaches will be attacked by those who believe that tolerance is the true virtue that trumps everything else.

  32. Seems like God was saying the opposite, that He should not be in a tent…

    When King David was settled in his palace, and the LORD had given him rest from his enemies on every side,

    he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!”

    Nathan answered the king, “Go, do whatever you have in mind, for the LORD is with you.”

    But that night the LORD spoke to Nathan and said:

    “Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: Should you build me a house to dwell in?

    Last time I looked, the temple was pretty ornate.

    Also, it seems that the Church has built a number of massive churches over the centuries. I believe that what we have in the Catholic Mass is the food we need to go out into the world and welcome the sinner and that is why those who try to use the Mass itself as the point of welcome are in error. What the bishop said that Deacon Bill said was wrong was in fact correct. The Catholic Church which is all of us need to learn to be more welcoming, but that does not mean we turn the Church Mass into a circus. Jesus chased the money changers and said this is my Fathers House. Were they not welcome in His Fathers house? He used a whip? But outside the Fathers House, he healed and welcomed the sinner. When did Jesus in the gospel take a sinner to temple? Did that ever happen? He healed the leper and then sent them off to the priest to show they were clean, but did not send the leper to the temple where he would clean them. There is a place Jesus created in his Church for sinners to go for healing in the Sacrament of Reconcilliation and we are in fact as Catholics sent here before we go to receive the Eucharist in the Catholic mass. Jesus as a Jew washed his feet before he would enter temple.

    Deacon Bill is advocating that the Catholic Mass is the place where everyone should go and be welcome. I think the Bishop was right on this one and Deacon Bill is wrong based on what Jesus did and Church teaching.

  33. David, I think you make a good point on the annual Christmas Mass. Each year, on that day (and or christmas eve vigil mass) there are many who come into Catholic Churches all over the country. I do not remember any of them being turned away from entry or from the Eucharist in my lifetime. Yet it would seem to some that Catholics do not welcome people into the Churches. Of course if they want to be serious about their faith, they might want to start practicing it in a way that does not leave them in the state of moral sin and with each Eucharist in ever greater state of sin. But maybe welcoming them means never bothering to mention things like this; just let them spend eternity in hell while we smile and put our arms around them in secular love.

  34. Neither Deacon Bill, as I understand him, nor I advocate changing the Mass or the teaching of the Church.

  35. Fiergenholt says:

    Mark:

    I’ll leave the decision to Deacon Greg but you may be violating his “Terms of Service” here.

  36. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    “Mark”…

    The last person who ran on like this and monopolized the comments with long-winded postings got a warning, and eventually got banned.

    Be brief, be bold, be gone. Otherwise, start your own blog.

    Thank you for your cooperation.

    Dcn. G.

  37. hmmm……this exchange shows the tension that always exists between “all are welcomed” and respecting rules and boundaries of receiving hospitality.

  38. naturgesetz

    So where was the bishop wrong when he”remarked that the song “All are Welcome” was incorrect, and that all people are NOT welcome at Catholic Mass? If you do not change Church teaching on receiving the Eucharist, all are not welcome at the full mass which is what I was trying to point out and I am sure what the Bishop was saying as well. It is the heart of the discussion. So if you and Deacon Bill are not advocating a change in the Mass, and you say all are welcome, how do you get past the teaching that some are indeed not able to receive and should be aware that they are not welcome to recieve.

    I find it often is the case that some bash anyone who points out Church teaching as being mean or not welcoming and it really bothers me. It seems those who do the bashing never seem to want to get to the details of how things like this are to be handled. It is indeed why some see Catholics as not welcoming because they do not understand our faith and how what we believe is going on in the mass. We welcome, but the Mass is not the vehicle for the welcoming, it is the culmination of the friendship we hope to form in other places.

  39. Jane Jenkins says:

    I find Dcn. Bill’s dream as misleading. Why? He seems to compare the ancient Church as more welcoming than the Church today, but this is based on fiction and a failure to explain what “welcome” means. He leaves us with a nice feeling, but ultimately it is no more than that.
    Is welcome the formal liturgical gesture of shaking hands? Then the deacon must consider the Churches of the Eastern Rite as unwelcoming. That is a sad unecumencial viewpoint.
    Is welcome a simple “Hi, come in and pray?” If so, that’s not what the historians tell us the ancient Church did. Membership in the Catholic Church was a matter of life and death back then. People were vetted before they could join worship. That’s part of the reason for sponsors at baptism – that is “witnesses” who would testify that the person was not a government spy and was sincere about becoming Catholic. The catechumenate could last for years, and liturgical scholars tell us that those who got as far as the catechumenate [and also penitents] were dismissed before the Liturgy of the Eucharist, since the sacred mysteries were only for those who were practicing the Faith and in good standing. Even into the Middle Ages travelers carried a something to show their credentials as a Christian in good standing (just as priests today carry credentials) so that they might be admitted to the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
    Now, I am not saying I am against inviting all to come and pray today in church in our changed conditions and situation. I’ve never been to a Catholic Church that told people to leave (except once when a homeless man was causing a disturbance by going aroundasking for money during Mass). Even official practice today welcomes EVERYONE to the Mass. Just read the USCCB statement on most missalettes.
    So what is the deacon’s real point? Does he have a particular church in mind?
    Does he want to make the sign of peace the highpoint of the Mass?
    Does welcome mean not preaching difficult things to hear?
    Is liturgy about us or about God? What we take from the liturgy is what should affect our relationships – but outside the time of worship.
    Finally, the deacon should know that some places that self-congratulate themselves as open to all (even though every Catholic Church is open to all), do not preach the first words recorded to have come out our Jesus Christ’s mouth: “Repent and believe, the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Such places actually affirm lifestyles directly contrary to the Gospel.

  40. “Even official practice today welcomes EVERYONE to the Mass. Just read the USCCB statement on most missalettes.
    So what is the deacon’s real point?”

    Perhaps it’s that there should be more Catholics who have internalized the official practice of the Church and really want to have everyone feel welcome, and fewer who go on nearly interminably with pretexts for evading it, quibbles, and red herrings (and sometimes even post the same evasions twice).

  41. The mission of the Church is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. All are welcome to come to the Church, and we should all do our part to invite others to come. Hopefully, what they will hear when they arrive is the gospel, preached with clarity and without compromise, and more with our actions than our words. We meet people where they are, whether that be the violent criminal, those in irregular marriages, the actively homosexual, the slum lord, the porn star, or any other sinner who is not yet as great a sinner as I am. But, we don’t leave them where they are. We challenge them to form their lives according to the gospel, just as we have been challenged and struggle to do so. Compassion means to suffer with: com = with; passion = suffer. What we “suffer with” others is our brokenness, our need to be healed by Christ, and our struggle to be transformed according to the will of God, … and that is all of us.

  42. I agree with Deacon – I believe he was trying to remind us that the Church is a place where all are welcome and loved, even the sinner. A smile or a short exchange of words of welcome that are truly felt may go farther in helping a person find Christ than the person who wonders is this person worthy, or the person who believes that we must push our teaching down the throat of someone else. Jesus, our model told parables, he conversed, he did not rant, he did forgive and he did challenge. His challenge is to love to love God and to love one another. Turning our backs on a person we deem less worthy or credentialed is the opposite of what the gospels teach. Our credentials (from Jane Jenkins) are invisible to our eyes, in fact none of us are really worthy, it is only through Christ that we become worthy. I am reminded of those who Jesus ate and drank with – it was not the “perfect”, it was the sinners – can we do less?

  43. Still have the same question. Despite everything Jesus did for the poor and the sick, did he ever do any of this while in the temple? Did he call for bringing the poor into the temple without restrictions of any kind? Did he call for an end to washing before entering the temple? Did he chase with great violence the money changers from the temple? It seems the confusion is between being a welcoming church and what is done at the Catholic Mass which gets us back to the statement that the Bishop was wrong according to Deacon Bill. It also seems we are trying as Catholics to get some of the wrong things going on in Mass set straight with the corrections to the liturgy as well. Can anyone show me where Christ preached what Deacon Bill is saying as far as it going on in the Temple?

  44. naturgesetz says:

    Matthew 21:14 “The blind and the lame approached him in the temple area, and he cured them.”

    When he drove the sellers out of the temple, he quoted Isaiah 56:7, which says, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

    I think the problem is that you and others make the leap from the call to welcome all (and many admit that at a basic level, all are indeed welcome) to a question of orthodox teaching and worthy reception of Communion, which is not something he discussed. I wish we could just all agree that our purpose is to bring people into the Kingdom of God, and that when the people Deacon Bill mentioned get the impression that the Catholic Church hates them (and they do, and our opponents are only too eager to reinforce that impression), then we have no chance to present the gospel of God’s love and his call to holiness to them. We can’t preach to people until we have gathered them to our side.

    In other words, all are welcome because God “wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of truth,” (1 Timothy 2:4) and “did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17) I wish we could say, “Amen,” instead of “Yeah, but … .”

  45. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    Then there’s this, from the first chapter of John:

    Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?”
    39
    He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day.

    “All are welcome.” “Come and see.” Same concept. Further proof, if any were needed, that Jesus was the first Minister of Hospitality. :-)

    Dcn. G.

  46. When Jesus went to the Temple, He didn’t spend all His time running around the courts, applauding all His people and hugging them. Nor did the Father command any of that in His law. Heck, the only person who was quoted to get kissy-greetingy on Holy Thursday was Judas. So obviously, God doesn’t really love and welcome us. Obviously Jesus was just some kind of standoffish, snobby guy.

    Now, this doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to be huggy and a gladhander. John was leaning on Jesus’ chest all during the Last Supper, and obviously he made good.
    But it’s silly to pretend that “a house of prayer for all peoples” is the same level of formality as “a slumber party at my house.”

  47. And obviously, if you saw someone sick at church and could heal them, or someone shivering and could clothe them, you would do it right away, as Jesus did, because emergency trumps everything else. (There’s a lot of Jewish law on this point, and that’s why Jesus’ “sabbath breaking” wasn’t that at all.) That’s why if somebody is starving to death or dying of thirst or gravely ill, neither he nor anyone caring for him necessarily is obligated to go to Mass, fast, etc., and why gravely sick people don’t have to keep the Eucharistic fast in order to receive Communion.

    But although obviously there are many ways to make people feel welcome to church, there’s a lot of difference between being welcoming and treating Mass like a slumber party. Nobody’s ever given me a dirty look for instructing a child or a non-Catholic visitor to Mass about what’s going on, because that’s two different obligations chiming together. If I were instructing people at the top of my voice, or putting up a big screen TV in my pew and running videos on it about Mass during Mass, I think the ushers would probably escort me out, and rightly so!

    So yes, obviously parishes should advertise Mass times, they should have ushers and such on the lookout for newbies, parishioners should spend a few glances making sure their pew neighbors are looking okay, and so forth. Parishes should probably think hard about having some kind of open party in the rectory or the basement for people who have nowhere else to go, though obviously you’d have to be very tactful about finding someone to run it, and it would be hard (at least at first) to get enough attendees not to make it more depressing than staying home alone.

    But people primarily come to Christmas Mass for the kind of welcome that comes from the peace beyond understanding, for the quiet of the stable at night and the Bethlehem morning, as well as supernatural amounts of rejoicing. The world can’t give us that, whereas even the pagans are perfectly capable of hospitable parties open to all comers. (And I know some perfectly nice pagans who’ve often done just that.)

  48. Fiergenholt says:

    Maureen:

    I’ll let Deacon Greg speak for himself, but you are very close to violating the “Terms of Service” for this BLOG.

    One — at the most TWO — postings per stream and try and keep each posting under 200 words. “Be brief — Be concise — or Be gone.”

    He has already BANNED several folks because of continual violations of those common courtesy rules.

  49. naturgesetz says:

    You have so completely misunderstood Deacon Bill’s post that it is little short of amazing. It has nothing whatever to do with slumber parties. It has nothing to do with parties of any sort. It does have to do with earnestly wanting everybody to share the peace beyond understanding, rather than feeling smugly superior to those pagans outside. It has to do with being inclusive, like Jesus, rather than exclusive, like the Pharisees.

  50. pagansister says:

    What’s with “even the pagans are perfectly capable of hospitable parties open to all comers” Maureen? EVEN the pagans? Whoa! But this article was about a faith/religion welcoming all who wish to enter it’s establisment, in this case, the Catholic Church….not a comparison of “pagans” vs Christians, and their hospitality successes.

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  1. [...] the beautiful sentiment (which was touched on here) that’s expressed by Sr. Mary Ann Walsh in this post for the USCCB blog: The welcome mat is out [...]

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